Rian Johnson has done it again. Knives Out is a cunning, intelligent and hilarious whodunit lifted even higher into the stratosphere by a phenomenal ensemble cast. When the novelist patriarch (Christopher Plummer) of a wealthy Massachusetts family is found dead after his 85th birthday party, an investigation commences in order to piece together the truth of the matter. Old grudges, hidden motives and torrid details begin popping up like daisies as the local police (Lakeith Stanfield & Noah Segan) along with a private investigator (Daniel Craig) dig deeper into the mysteries of the Thrombey family.
As he has shown before, Johnson is a master of subverting expectations and delivering a fun romp while doing so. Knives Out borrows from Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie, the Coen brothers and even Kurosawa’s Rashomon all the while delivering a wholly unique experience. Johnson scavenges scraps from those who have come before and sews them into a gorgeous quilt of a film that you just want to wrap yourself up in. Knives Out is a hell of a ride and best experienced with no plot spoilers so I will say no more about the narrative.
What I will expand on, however, is the tremendous cast Johnson has assembled. There is a palpable sense that each actor is having the time of their lives embodying these characters. Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans and Michael Shannon are particular standouts among the main family. But in the other corner, you have Daniel Craig relishing in his Kentucky drawl and making himself right at home as the master sleuth, Benoit Blanc. But in a film populated with iconic actors of multiple generations, it’s thirty-one year old Ana de Armas who steals the show as the kindly nurse, Marta Cabrera. She is the beating heart at the center of this puzzle box and Johnson practically dares you not to be completely enamored with her.
An equal star of the film is the sprawling and intricately-detailed mansion that serves as the main setting. Production design by David Crank combined with the crisp cinematography of Steve Yedlin combine to create an atmosphere that is equally welcoming and menacing – a perfect representation of the Thrombey family itself. From plotting to casting to production design, Knives Out runs on all cylinders and it’s a bloody good time.